Upsets and Star-Studded Performances Headline an Incredible Week 2
December 10, 2023By: Jon Rapoport
FireWolves Spoil Bandits Debut
The defending NLL champion Buffalo Bandits opened their title defense traveling 300 miles east to battle the Albany FireWolves in a matchup of Empire State franchises. Led by Alex Simmons’ five goals and three assists, the FireWolves not only spoiled the Bandits debut, but moved to 2-0 on the season, with the club’s home victory taking place one week after an impressive road win at Las Vegas. Travis Longboat and Ethan Walker each contributed seven points in the 17-13 triumph.
Buffalo’s dynamic duo of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith posted a combined 15 points, including seven and five assists respectively, but it was not enough to outpace the 2-0 boys from Albany.
Ironically, Buffalo opened last season with a loss to the FireWolves, only to finish the season holding the championship trophy. Will history repeat itself this season, or is this a precursor of what lies ahead for John Tavares’ team?
Mark Matthews Steals The Show
The Toronto Rock went big game hunting in the offseason, acquiring the great Mark Matthews from the Saskatchewan Rush, in a deal that sent Zach Manns to Western Canada. Oh boy, did Matthews make an impact during his first game in blue scoring a whopping four goals in Toronto’s 11-7 win over the Philadelphia Wings. Brand new Rock players Chris Boushy and Dan Lintner also made great first impressions, posting two assists a piece. General manager Jamie Dawick is already seeing dividends from his very busy summer of wheeling and dealing.
In a fun twist, the game included the first career goals for Toronto’s Justin Martin and Tyler Hendrycks, as well as Philadelphia’s Mitchell Armstrong and Taggart Clark (son of Albany coach Glenn Clark). Jamie Dawick’s son Josh added three assists for the Rock.
Manns and Fields Battle It Out
8,708 raucous fans at Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre watched the hometown Rush go down to the Rochester Knighthawks 16-14 in an absolute thriller. Newly acquired Zach Manns tallied six points (three goals, three assists), with Rush great Robert Church posting five points of his own in a game that was tied with under three minutes left, only to see Rochester score three straight goals to seal the victory.
Without question, the star of the show was Rochester’s fast-ascending star Connor Fields, who was responsible for an absurd 11 points, on four goals and seven assists. Ryan Smith added three goals and three assists for a Knighthawks team that moves to 2-0 on the young season. Conversely, the Rush now stand at a disappointing 0-2.
Lyle Thompson Puts On A Clinic
NLL fans had Georgia on their mind with the iconic Lyle Thompson and his Swarm teammates kicking off the 2023-2024 campaign against the visiting Colorado Mammoth. And to no one’s surprise, Lyle put on an awe-inspiring performance, finding the back of the net on four occasions, amid assisting on three more scores in Georgia’s 16-10 rout of the recent league champs from Denver. Seth Oakes and former MVP Shayne Jackson each scored three goals in the Swarm’s decisive win.
Colorado’s Eli McLaughlin scored two early goals, with Connor Kelly and Chris Wardle collecting three and two goals apiece, but it was far from enough for the Mammoth to overcome being without all-world goalie Dillon Ward and the always clutch Ryan Lee, who both sat out due to injury. This game was never really in doubt, with Georgia holding a 10-5 lead at half and never once looking back from there.
Championship Contenders Battle In San Diego
Southern California was the setting for a matchup of Western powers, with the San Diego Seals outlasting the Calgary Roughnecks 12-9. After giving up eight consecutive second-half goals in a Week 1 loss to Rochester, Calgary watched San Diego post nine goals on the second-half scoreboard this week, leading to the three-goal defeat. Tyler Pace netted four for the Roughnecks, with Austin Staats doing the very same for the Seals. San Diego goalie Chris Origlieri held his opponents from Alberta scoreless in the fourth, coming out victorious against reigning NLL MVP Christian Del Bianco.
The San Diego opener featured the jersey retirement ceremony of lacrosse icon Brodie Merrill, who retired after a sterling NLL career. Merrill is the brother of Seals’ head coach/general manager Patrick Merrill. NFL legend Drew Brees and Poison frontman Bret Michaels were on hand for the festivities.
Crawford & Hellyer Shine Bright In Overtime Classic
Week 2 concluded with an Old West thriller, deep in the heart of Texas. Callum Crawford’s torrid early season continued, with the 39-year-old Panther City star netting three more goals, pushing his two-game total to an incredible eight scores. Fellow longtime NLL stalwart Rob Hellyer tallied three of his own for Las Vegas, with Jason Knox and Dylan Watson each scoring their first career goals, for PCLC and LV respectively.
The see-saw affair looked to be moving in Panther City’s direction when the club attained a 9-7 lead, before the Desert Dogs once again tied it up 9-9, with three minutes remaining. Panther City regained the lead, only to witness Sean Westley even things at 10-10, with only .8 seconds remaining in the fourth. With the momentum now in their favor, Las Vegas won the game in OT thanks to a goal from Dallas/Fort Worth area resident Zack Greer, who scored 2:55 into the extra frame.
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